I believe in power. I believe that anyone can seize it within the grip of his or her own hand and hold it firmly.
As an infant, my grip was weak. When eating, I naturally preferred using my hands over modern kitchen utensils, not because a barbaric lifestyle fascinated me, but because I lacked the sensory-motor skills needed to grab a spoon, plant it into a plate of pepper-sprinkled mashed potatoes, and coordinate it into my toothless mouth. I had a much easier time pretending that the potato-covered spoon flew like an airplane onto my tongue, which would extend out like an airport runway. My father acted as a pilot: he replicated an airplane’s engine noise by making “zoom zoom” sounds as he lowered the spoon to my mouth. He fed me my mashed potatoes; he controlled the plane’s flight route; and ultimately, he exercised full power over me in the earlier stages of my life.
Many years later, I remember sitting in a middle school classroom. My English teacher spontaneously rushed to the television with a grim face. She turned on a news station, which flashed images that would soon shock the world. I watched airplanes, smoke, and collapsing buildings on September 11th. The word “terrorism” appeared with big, bold letters in every newspaper, magazine, and television broadcast for months. It only occurred to me later that those terrorists had power over the United States. They flooded the country with tears. I wondered if fathers could still spoon-feed their children the same way my father spoon-fed me.
Throughout the hallways of my high school, I always carried a history textbook. The power struggles of mankind piqued my interest. I learned about the slaves in ancient Egypt who constantly feared the crack of the whip and the gold headdress of the pharaoh who hid behind his spear-wielding guards. I learned about a crazed man of Germany who instilled terror into the hearts of gypsies, homosexuals, cripples, and Jews, let alone the rest of the world.
But now I realize that guns, bombs, and tanks are not the only means of showing power. I walk into a museum and feel emotions of joy, anger, and pain from the silence of a brilliant painting and know there is power within the stroke of a paintbrush. Every time I pass Greensborough, North Carolina on a road trip, I remember that something as simple as sitting down can break the chains of segregation and lead a whole color of people to freedom.
And can you hear the power in my voice? I sure can feel it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.